If you’re a white performer your race is rarely treated as part of your performing identity; you’re unlikely to see someone billed as, say, a ‘white comedian’. If you’re Black on the other hand, things are different: being Black is seen as part of the act, as though the artist’s race itself was the category of entertainment – at least, when it is put on for white audiences.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, says Thomas F DeFrantz. DeFrantz is chair of African and African American Studies and Professor of Dance and Theatre Studies at Duke University in the US, and a world-renowned expert on Black performance. In this manifesto lecture I Am Black on as part of SICK! Festival, he discusses how black performance ends up being reduced to the category of ‘race’ rather than being seen as many-faced and multi-layered, and suggests how we can move on from this recurring problem.
The talk is followed by a Q&A session hosted by Dr Shirley Tate from the University of Leeds, another well-respected author and expert on issues of culture and race.